For years now, the Cold Case Justice Initiative and the families who have lost loved ones to racial violence, and with whom we share the struggle for justice, have been pressing our government for full accountability. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but it is only the first step in a new phase.
We urge Congress to honor the bipartisan commitment it made in 2008 to address the past failure of the legal system: to identify, properly investigate the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of suspicious deaths and prosecute killers who acted during the pre-1969 civil rights era.
The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act continues and strengthens that mandate. It also reflects the realization that racial violence remains a destructive force and that the pursuit of justice has no deadline and cannot be compromised. The victims of these racial crimes and their families are owed acknowledgement of their loss, accountability of perpetrators for their deaths, and gratitude by our government and entire society for their ultimate sacrifices. Because many of these families have waited for closure 50 years or more we urge Congress to move swiftly to reauthorize the Act.
Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald
Co-directors and Law Professors
Cold Case Justice Initiative
Syracuse University College of Law